The town of Saint Louis, Missouri is old by most American standards – home to native tribes like the famous mound-builders and a major transit site for French trappers and traders, St. Louis became the starting point for the celebrated Lewis and Clark expedition into the western expansion of the United States, a bustling brew town, a diehard baseball town, and the location of the 1904 World’s Fair.
I visited a craft fair in west county on Sunday afternoon and stopped at a table littered with framed photos and postcards. Mark, the vendor, eagerly rounded the table to walk me through his beloved collection.
He showcased original advertisements for Anheuser-Busch and hand-drawn portraits of Forest Park monuments (long since lost) and genuine souvenir postcards from the World’s Fair. As Mark expounded upon the story linked with each postcard I watched these key landmarks I’ve known since childhood come to life in a completely different way. The giant Amoco sign at Clayton and Skinker was constructed on a plot of land intended as a main entrance to Forest Park, but later sold to Red Crown for commercial purposes. The annual event I’ve always referred to as Fair Saint Louis was called the Veiled Prophet Ball until 1992.
I left with a color photo circa 1906 of Washington Avenue, now a major residential area but once a bustling street where centered St. Louis’ garment district. The garment district is long gone, and many Saint Louisans’ memories thereof, but I have photographic proof that this city was once a cool place.